Author Lauren Markham visits Iowa City to discuss ‘The Far Away Brothers’ with One Community, One Book

Lauren Markham discussed One Community, One Book’s selection of her novel ‘The Far Away Brothers’ and her visit to Iowa City on Oct. 4.



Pedro Barragan, Arts Reporter

Lauren Markham’s The Far Away Brothers was selected this year for the annual reading program, One Community, One Book, by the University of Iowa’s Center for Human Rights.

One Book, One Community is a yearly program that teaches human rights issues to general readers. Markham visited the UI on Oct. 4 for a discussion about her book, which follows the story of two migrant twin brothers and how they navigate their new lives in America. The author came for a presentation of her work and book signing as part of the Iowa City Book Festival.

“I thought she was fantastic and quite interactive in her presentation,” said UI Center for Human Rights assistant director Amy Weismann in an email to The Daily Iowan. “I think she wanted to encourage the audience to think critically about U.S. immigration policy. As well as understand the very human experiences of migration” said Weismann.

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Along with being a writer, Markham is an administrator for an immigrant youth school in Oakland, California, which she helped start 12 years ago.

“I have the benefit of listening to and learning from young immigrants,” said Markham. “I get to hear about what they loved about home, why they left, what they find here in the U.S., and what their struggles and dreams and daily victories, small and large, look like.”

Markham said she wrote The Far Away Brothers with the intention to create protagonists that young immigrants could identify with.

“I wrote this book, in part, to center the stories of young immigrants coming to this country from Central America, to situate these young people’s story within the context of history, U.S. foreign policy, and the global economy, and to allow more people to connect intimately, on the page, to our newest U.S. Americans,” said Markham.

In regards to the UI’s One Community, One Book, Weismann stated that the program intends to say to its targeted demographic.

“It’s a community reading program that the UI for Human Rights programs each year,” Weismann said. “It’s to promote education about human rights through literature.”

Weismann spoke about how the event has community discussions in anticipation of the author’s visit.

“We also, leading up to that event, organize a series of community discussion forums along with community partners to have people read the book and discuss it and share what questions they have with the author,” she said.

John Kenyon, the Director of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, said he condones the selection of Markham’s novel.

“Markham’s book is so beautifully written, a truly novelistic take on a complex subject, and I believe it will move the dialogue forward on this topic in [and] out [the] community,” said Kenyon.

Markham said the work fits in today’s political climate.

“I could not have imagined when I started this book in 2015, how relevant it would be when it came out in 2017,” Markham said. “Circumstances for and treatment of young immigrants — and the hands of the U.S. government, of private contractors, and even of other U.S. residents — has long been abhorrent and appalling but matters have only gotten worse under the current administration.”

Markham said immigration is no new scenario.

“We think of immigration as something that happens the minute someone crosses the bright red line of the border (which, of course, is merely a figment of human imagination), but in fact, immigration starts long before that — sometimes decades or centuries prior,” Markham said.